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October 5, 2023

Executive Constantine proposal invests $21 million from opioid settlements to combat overdose crisis

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King County Executive Dow Constantine announced a proposal to use settlement funds from opioid distributors to address the opioid overdose epidemic. The funds will support local programs and services to reduce overdose deaths, expand treatment, and bridge gaps in services for people with substance use disorders.

Following successful litigation against opioid distributors by the Attorney General’s office, King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed investing King County’s settlement funds in community-based overdose prevention services. The settlement is estimated to bring between $1 million - $1.5 million per year over the next 17 years, and the funds are a part of the Executive’s budget proposal set to be released next week. The funding will support local programs and services to reduce overdose deaths, expand treatment, and bridge gaps in services for people with substance use disorders.

As part of a nationwide agreement, Washington state and 125 eligible counties and cities in the state settled litigation against three opioid distributors in 2022. The state and these local jurisdictions will recover a total of $518 million over the next 17 years. Funding for King County and the cities within it will be overseen by the Opioid Abatement Council, a regional entity that was established in alignment with the State’s requirements, and has representatives from the County, the City of Seattle, and the Sound Cities Association.

A proposed plan for the settlement funding was created following a local community engagement process conducted by Public Health – Seattle & King County and the Department of Community & Human Services. The engagement gathered input and feedback from those impacted by the opioid epidemic, focusing on which principles and priorities should help identify investment areas using the funds received by King County.

Aligned with those community recommendations, most of the funding will be distributed through competitive grant processes for community-based overdose prevention services. This could include locating overdose prevention and response programs in supportive housing, expanding counseling services and peer support, and providing access to services for people who may not be connected to care.

The proposed investments will also fund programs and services designed to:

  • bridge gaps in treatment for people with substance use disorders,
  • support people as they navigate the treatment system,
  • expand tools to prevent overdoses and reduce harm, including naloxone, and
  • address gaps in insurance coverage for services and medications to treat opioid use disorder.

“The plan is designed to address community needs for harm reduction, lower barriers to care, and invest in community-based solutions,” said Dr. Faisal Khan, Director for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “This plan – rooted in principles informed by the community and guided by evidence – recognizes that the scale of this problem cannot be successfully mitigated without multiple approaches. These settlement funds are one important piece to what is needed to comprehensively address the opioid crisis in our community.”

“Fatal overdoses are at an all-time high in King County, having nearly doubled since 2020—a statistic that touches the lives of every person who has lost a family member, friend, or loved one,” said King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “This new funding source will amplify our efforts to fight this overdose crisis by bolstering life-saving prevention efforts and treatment for substance use disorder.”

The proposal now moves to the King County Council for approval.